Greetings fellow LCCers!
Ordinarily I’d let my 4-parter on Synod’s convention publish under the original one-a-day schedule and then work on some other topics I have sitting in my queue. Then I got some comments to part 1 that resulted in a post I felt important enough to publish in a “lightning round” post.
Parts 3 and 4 of the original series will be posted in the next two days.
- The Trouble with Delegates
- Delegates to the October 2020 Special Convention?
- Why Hold A Convention When You Don’t Need To?
- Get a CCMS Opinion
- LCMS CCMS Decision On Conventions During A Pandemic
The Trouble with Delegates
To kick things off, Rev Clifford made the following comment on Part 1 that changes everything.
Under the Synodical Bylaws in effect at the start of the 2017 convention (2014 Synodical Bylaws), section 2.03 details where voting delegates come from:
2.03 Voting Delegates
Voting delegates to a Convention shall consist of at least one pastor and one layperson from each circuit.
2.05 Election of Delegates
a. Each circuit shall meet at the call of the circuit counsellor to elect its delegates not later than seven months prior to the opening day of the Convention.
The 2017 handbook (2017 Statutory Bylaws) details that delegates come from member congregations, not circuits:
Statutory Bylaw 1.01: “delegate” means an individual appointed by a Member Congregation to represent that Member Congregation at a Convention;
Statutory Bylaw 8.01 Subject to 8.02 and 8.03, at least 90 days prior to a Convention, each Member Congregation shall appoint two individuals as its delegates to represent the Member Congregation at the Convention. One delegate must be a pastor serving that Member Congregation and one delegate must be a lay person who is a Member of that Member Congregation.
2017 handbook Bylaw 9.1 states that delegates to special conventions are the same as the delegates at the previous convention.
Here’s the list of governing documents:
- The Statutory Bylaws – relate to the legal structure of the Synod and is the primary document. All other governing documents are subordinate to this document.
- Synodical Constitution – has the confessional and doctrinal subscriptions, and is subordinate to the Statutory Bylaws
- Synodical Bylaws – has all the rules about ‘how things are done’ and is subordinate to the Statutory Bylaws and Synodical Constitution.
According to the 2017 convention proceedings, the following resolutions adopted the new governing documents:
- Resolution 17.01.06 to replace the current statutory bylaws and all amendments since adopted in 2002 with a consolidated form of statutory bylaws
ACTION: Adopted as Amended
- Resolution 17.01.07 to replace the current synodical constitution and all amendments since adopted in 2002 with a consolidated form of synodical constitution
- Resolution 17.01.08 to replace the previous synodical bylaws and all amendments since adopted in 2002 with a consolidated form of synodical bylaws
Each of these governing documents repealed their predecessor documents with immediate effect. That is, immediately after their passage the convention was operating under the 2017 documents and not the 2014 documents. There was no waiting period, no ratification by the individual member congregations, the rest of the convention was under the rules of the new Statutory Bylaws, Synodical Constitution, and Synodical Bylaws.
This is where the manner in which delegates are placed becomes important.
Under the 2014 rules each person was nominated by a congregation and elected by a circuit.
The 2017 documents require each member congregation to elect a lay and clergy member as their delegate to the synodical conventions.
When resolution 17.01.06 was passed the new Statutory Bylaws came into effect and all prior versions were repealed. This changed the definition of a delegate.
When 17.01.08 was passed and the new Synodical Bylaws were adopted, it took immediate effect and all prior Synodical Bylaws were repealed. This changed the way delegates are elected to office.
Small problem – not a single delegate to the 2017 convention had been placed in office using the new Statutory definition or Synodical rules.
The Statutory Bylaws states the quorum for a convention is:
9.07 A quorum for a Convention shall consist of at least 25% of the eligible delegates.
No legal delegates after Resolution 17.01.06 or Resolution 17.01.08 was passed means the meeting did not have quorum.
Lack of quorum means the convention could not conduct any business. (1)
What makes this important is that Synod as a body sets its rules and its members rightly expect it to follow them. When a convention passes rules governing how Synod will conduct itself and Synod promptly ignores those same rules – what’s the point of having a convention to conduct business? There’s also potential legal implications if someone were to decide to institute legal proceedings against Synod the corporate body.
Delegates to the October 2020 Special Convention?
Now suppose we exchange ‘wink’s here and decide to just let this slide for now. There’s still the matter of the special convention in October 2020. The 2017 handbook states that delegates to the special convention are the same as the ones at the prior convention using the 2017 rules. At present time there’s little if any legally placed delegates who can attend.
If there no delegates are rightly placed by their congregations, then there are no legal delegates.
No legal delegates = no quorum = no business transacted = no reason to hold a special convention.
Why Hold A Convention When You Don’t Need To?
The argument for an October 2020 special convention is that the governing documents mandate that it be held so the Board needs permission to change the date.
Here’s the thing –
- There’s nothing in the documents that requires delegates to attend.
- Article 9.07 states that a quorum for a convention shall consist of at least 25% of the eligible delegates.
- Not enough delegates = no quorum.
- No quorum = no business transacted.
I think this whole problem can be worked around w/out having to resort to all this extra work.
- A “convention” meeting announcement is made that it will be held in the Synodical Office’s boardroom at a certain date.
- The day of the “convention” arrives with enough people in attendance to “run the convention”.
- The chair gavels the “convention” in.
- Any non-business activity is conducted.
- The chair notes the lack of quorum.
- The “convention” is concluded.
At a later date an appropriate group can call for a special convention to conduct the regular business that would’ve been transacted if the normal convention was held.
Get a CCMS Opinion
SYNODICAL BYLAWS 2.104 Interpretation of the Statutory Bylaws, Constitution, and Synodical Bylaws of Synod
The Commission shall interpret the Statutory Bylaws, the Synodical Constitution, and the Synodical Bylaws, and resolutions upon the written request of a Member, officer, the Board, or commission, or an organization which has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with LCC. Such a request may be accompanied by a request for an appearance before the Commission. An opinion rendered by the Commission shall be binding on the question decided unless and until it is overruled by a Convention
I’m thinking if someone asked the CCMS for their opinion if a convention absolutely has to be held if doing so would put people’s health at risk, they’d get a useful answer that would definitively address this concern.
LCMS CCMS Decision On Conventions During A Pandemic
The LCMS CCMS opinion on holding conventions during a pandemic is quite instructive.
Short answer = virtual conventions are not allowed as they have to fulfill their deliberative nature among other functions.
The same problem was noted in the LCMS Commission on Constitutional Matters June 16, 2020, Minutes, which stated that the 2021 District conventions are required to meet physically, not electronically, and that “Should a district be unable to convene or achieve the required quorum at any point during the district convention year, it would simply have no regular convention in this triennium.”
Those currently elected to District offices would remain until they were replaced in some subsequent election. The rules of succession and vacancy appointment would be followed if an incumbent were unable or unwilling to continue in office.
It was not clear what would be done if the same problem were continuing or arose again in 2022 when the Synod is supposed to physically meet in convention.
Note 1: Article 15 of the proposed “Acts and Bylaws” dealt with the problem of conflicting rules by delaying the implementation of the new governance documents until after a sufficient number of members had voted to approve the changes. Once the acts and bylaws had been approved, all terms of office would be deemed terminated at a point in time and the new offices filled. This would’ve enabled the convention to run its full course under the 2014 handbook, come to a successful and legal conclusion, and have a smooth transition afterward.
Update: 2020-07-15: Changed “When resolution 17.01.06 was passed the new Synodical Bylaws ” to “When resolution 17.01.06 was passed the new Statutory Bylaws”. Thank you to the person that reported this error.
The above is further complicated by the fact that 2017 was a delegate Convention, that is, each Circuit was represented by a clergy delegate & a lay delegate. Under the new structure, each parish is represented by a clergy delegate & a lay delegate; so there are actually presently NO incumbent delegatesin office at all.